Social Science Information

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Modernity and diversity: reflections on the controversy between modernization theory and multiple modernists Volker H. Schmidt Social Science Information 2010 49: 511 DOI: 10.1177/0539018410376882 The online version of this article can be found at: http://ssi.sagepub.com/content/49/4/511

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Theory and methods Théorie et méthodes Volker H. Schmidt

Modernity and diversity: reflections on the controversy between modernization theory and multiple modernists Abstract. The article revisits modernization theory’s convergence claim, which has been strongly criticized by multiple modernists, who maintain that emerging realities have not borne out its underlying premises. Based on a thorough reading of classical texts, the article reconstructs the term’s meaning within a modernization-theoretical frame of reference and then considers the evidence that multiple modernists hold against it. It finds that none of the observations cited by leading multiple modernists are able to challenge modernization theory, which can easily accommodate the kinds of difference invoked by its critics. East-Asian modernity in particular, to which both sides assign special weight for any test of modernization theory, appears remarkably similar to Western modernity when viewed through the lenses of this theory. At the same time, the literature on multiple modernities, despite pleading to take difference seriously, is silent about differences that large parts of the lessdeveloped world exhibit vis-a-vis the West and East Asia in social-structural and cultural respects, indicating different degrees of modernization. The article concludes with a brief note on the differential weight of different kinds of diversity for different reference problems and a suggestion for a constructive resolution of the conflict between the two approaches. Key words. Convergence – Diversity – Modernity – Modernization – Multiple modernists

Résumé. L’article revisite l’hypothèse de convergence de la théorie de la modernisation, objet de lourdes critiques de la part des théoriciens des modernités multiples, qui soutiennent que les réalités émergentes n’en ont pas confirmé les prémisses de base. Partant d’une lecture approfondie des textes classiques, l’article reconstruit le sens du terme dans le cadre de référence théorique de la modernisation et considère les faits que les théoriciens des modernités

© The Author(s), 2010. Reprints and permissions: http://www.sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav Social Science Information, 0539-0184; Vol. 49(4): 511–538; 376882 DOI: 10.1177/0539018410376882 http://ssi.sagepub.com

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Social Science Information Vol 49 – no 4

multiples lui opposent. L’article montre qu’aucune des observations relevées par les théoriciens des modernités multiples les plus éminents ne peut rivaliser avec la théorie de la modernisation, qui s’accommode facilement de toutes les divergences qu’invoquent ses critiques. La modernité est-asiatique en particulier, à laquelle les deux camps attribuent un poids particulier pour tout test de la théorie de la modernisation, paraît en réalité remarquablement semblable à la modernité occidentale vue au travers du prisme de cette théorie. En même temps, la littérature sur les modernités multiples, bien qu’elle plaide pour que l’on considère...
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